Forty-three-year-old journalist and author Jacques Poitras recently launched his newest book, The Imaginary Line. In it, Poitras discusses the human side of the New Brunswick-Maine border.
“The New Brunswick-Maine border has had some academic work done on it but there hasn’t been any journalistic work done on it,” Poitras said in an interview following his book launch at the library at the legislature in Fredericton.
In late 2009, he tussled with the idea of writing a book on the border. After a fair amount of research, Poitras felt he had enough information on the subject worthy of a book’s length.
“It just seems that people don’t want to accept the border as a barrier, so that’s the theme of the book and that’s what I discovered when I was out doing research,” Poitras said.
The New Brunswick native says the border issue is one that runs along both sides of either country. That border is important because it’s the oldest and “the connections are stronger than in other places.”
In May of 2010, Poitras travelled for a month along the border talking to inhabitants on either side.
On his search, he met the Pedersen family, whose home straddles both sides of the border.
The Pederson’s driveway crosses the border into Canada. Visitors would enter Canada without checking in and illegally cross back into the U.S. when leaving.
“So there was no way unless you put a customs office at the end of their driveway to get around an illegal entry,” he said.
People had been arrested for going to see the Pedersens, even the mailman couldn’t get to the house.
Poitras admits that it’s difficult to deal with the border.
But “if we can’t do it here, where can we do it? That’s why I’m hoping to make this almost a microcosm of the whole relationship.”
Poitras was born and raised in Moncton and went to Carleton University to study journalism.
“I began to appreciate different aspects of he job such as, you know, journalism’s role in democracy and the need to be a watchdog on powerful institutions, the need to reflect what’s going on in a community.”
When he graduated from Carleton, he wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to do, but with help, he made up his mind.
“I stayed an extra year for a girl…I applied for the masters program when I wanted to stay for the girl, then the girl became out of the picture and then along with the masters acceptance was an offer to be a teacher assistant to the undergraduate students.”
It was a decision that worked for Poitras, whose job paid for his stay in residence that year.
“I’m still friends with the girl,” he said, snickering slightly, reluctant to share her name.
Since then, Poitras has written three books, an unmeasurable amount of articles and voiced countless radio reports.
Poitras is open about his interest and knowledge in New Brunswick politics.
But when asked if he’d ever consider entering politics he answers “no” with a swift shake of his head.
“The politicians I deal with, I generally like personally. There aren’t too many of them that are unlikeable. I’ve got nothing against them, it’s just that they’re doing one thing and I’ve got my role to play in a different way.”
As well as working for CBC radio, Poitras is a part-time professor at St. Thomas University, a position he has held for the past five years.
“It just so happened that by teaching this course it would bring me in a little bit of money but I would have free days to work on the book.”
One of Poitras’ former Carleton professors said he liked teaching journalism because its easy to track his students’ careers with the media.
Poitras says he’s already been able to notice some of his former students bylines and their voices and faces on the radio or television.
“It’s neat to see that.”
Poitras has worked for CBC for 11 years, his longest stint at any job.
And for him, New Brunswick is home and he reveals it would take an exceptional job offer to pry him away.
“The thing is, is that I’m from New Brunswick and I like New Brunswick so I would never consider different positions within the CBC just for the sake of doing it.”